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Does Buying Green Corrupt Us? - nhpeacenik
Does Buying Green Corrupt Us?
A study reported on by two University of Toronto researchers suggests that while hearing news about an organic or environmentally-friendly  product may lead consumers to act more altruistically, actually purchasing them is associated with more subsequent cheating and stealing and environmental bad-behavior than the purchase of conventional products.

Based on two experiments and a survey of recent literature on the subject, Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong conclude  "...that virtuous acts can license subsequent asocial and unethical behaviors".  They say.".. our studies suggest that social and ethical acts may contribute to a more general sense of moral self than previously thought, licensing socially undesirable behaviors in distant domains."

I interpret this as meaning that if I buy a green product, I subconsciously do a mental calculation that says I've built up moral credit and can "spend" it on some form of self-indulgence or cheating at a later time, including increasing my carbon footprint or otherwise polluting. At best, each green purchase includes an added incentive to laziness; at worst, it encourages environmental "sins".

Georges Monbiot, writing in the Guardian has read the study and  concludes that plain old fashioned guilt-tripping may do more actual environmental good than the feel-good approach used in much green marketing. He thinks, and I have to agree, that collective action through government (or possibly mass civil disobedience) is necessary, and that consumer choice by itself will not have a net positive effect on CO2 emmissions or related sustainability issues.

My radio station requires me to give "public service announcements" (PSAs) every hour, and most of the ones available in the studio are provided by industry groups promoting their pet nonprofit projects in order to boost their public image or their bottom line. The environmental messages tend to urge us to buy efficient lightbulbs, recycle plastic, buy new more-efficient cars, etc. If all this consumerism is worse than useless, and if what is really needed is concerted efforts to force government action, we would have to write and record the PSAs ourselves, because the well-funded industry lobbies have no intention of getting that message out. Maybe I should produce some... hmmm.

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